Use the right words in the right place to influence behavior. Two voter behavior research experiments show how phrasing (content) and place (context) influence voter behavior. Applying this information can help content strategies get closer to the customer.
In a study titled: Motivating Voter Turnout by Invoking the Self researchers from Stanford and Harvard uncover the subtle power of language on voting behavior. “A small change in wording that framed voting as an expression of self rather than as simply a behavior increased voter turnout.”
The researchers gave a survey to potential voters that included language with the personal identity phrasing (voter) or a behavioral description (voting). Those who received the survey with personal identity phrasing consistently voted in higher numbers.
Use Nouns vs. Verbs
Three different experiments were conducted using different variables to verify the results. The research shows that describing a person’s behavior “voting” (verb) was not as influential in voting behavior as when called “a voter” (noun).
To influence behavior content strategist may want to use an appropriate noun framed with a socially valued future behavior. The noun needs to reflect the kind of person your customer is or hopes to be. For example, rather than “XYZ manufactures bamboo” describe it as “an environmentally conscious bamboo manufacturer” for an audience that is sensitive to green initiatives.
Though not a part of the research cited above I think of the word “Submit” versus “Send.” Submit can be tied negatively to self-identity. Who wants to submit? Data indicates that Submit has lower interaction by website users.
Place Adds Context
Stanford researchers studied the influence of polling location on voting behavior. They found that people who voted in schools were more likely to support raising the state sales tax to fund education. It seems that environmental cues present in different polling locations can influence voting outcomes. Voters were randomly assigned to different environmental cue conditions.
Location provides lots of clues about who customers are, where they tend to be, what they tend to be doing and during what time of day. Are they at a convention center or crossing the city in a taxicab or bus? Place is becoming more accessible and varied for content strategist.
Adcentricity is a Canadian company that operates window displays, in-store television screens, and location-based shopping apps reaching customers wherever they are with relevant ad content. The company was bought by Bee Media last spring. RMG Networks delivers place-based media particularly around air travel. Its audience demographic is based on location – airports and airplanes. In-flight video and digital signage become an environmental cue.
Content strategists want prospects to vote yes (engage, purchase, advocate) for your company or brand. Having customers identify with the nouns you use or the place where they see your content won’t motivate them to do something they are opposed to. But, according to voter research it may influence behavior for those open to the message.